Best Of Tucson®

Q&A with Petey Mesquitey

Petey Mesquitey's five-minute community radio show, Growing Native, has celebrated the beauty of the Sonoran Desert for 12 years. Mesquitey spent 37 years living in Tucson before moving out to the Chiricahua Mountains. Still an honorary Tucsonan, he works at Desert Survivors Nursery and can be heard several times a week on KXCI FM 91.3.

What's the best movie of all time?

On the Waterfront. I saw it when I was a kid, and my parents actually took me to see it. I might have been 8 or 9. There was something very heroic about the lead guy going back to work after being bludgeoned.

What movie makes you think most of Tucson?

I could tell you a funny story about the movie Catch-22. I was in the dormitory at the UA, and they were filming Catch-22 down in the San Carlos-Guaymas area. All the freaks, they had hair down to here--this was 1967, 1968. You could be an extra in the movie, so they shaved their heads and went down. I stayed, but my roommate Gibb went. Well, it just turned into this incredible drug-fest, and they finally took all the extras and shipped them all out!

What's your favorite movie snack?

Well, it used to be Milk Duds. When we went to go see 2001: A Space Odyssey, we all did mescaline; we all got really wrecked. At the part where the guy first discovered tools, some kid behind me started throwing Milk Duds at my head, and I couldn't move! ... It sort of put an end to my Milk Dud love.

Any embarrassing cinematic experiences in your life, aside from the mescaline?

You know, drive-in theaters are great. ... I had a girlfriend down by the Kentucky River, in Versailles, and I remember we went to the Harrisburg drive-in theater. I think we saw the film Shenandoah 17 times, making out.

Best piece of Tucson history?

I love the barrios. Those are recent history; it's not like the misson, not a tourist spot. ... I feel like a voyeur sometimes; I'll cruise slowly through little neighborhoods and peek in. I'll probably get turned in.

Best annual festival?

Tucson Meet Yourself is a glorious festival. The joke is in there; people call it "Tucson Eat Yourself" because of all the food, you eat so much. That just started off as someone's dream, you know, Big Jim Griffith.

Best Mexican food?

If I want to go somewhere and see a friend in the distance, or have my children open up and yammer about good times, I take them to El Minuto. When I played music in bars, in the 1970s, I could go in there to eat at 1:30 or 2 in the morning. ... And if the circus was in town, all the performers would be in there.